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Accounting for Generation Z: how to engage the post-Millennial workforce

17 February 2020: move over Millennials, the next cohort to join the profession is Generation Z. But if you thought the rules of engagement were the same, think again. To target this tranche of job seekers and get the most out of them in the workplace demands a different approach, experts explain.

Millennials are now well-established in accounting – many as partners, CFOs or running their own firms. The next demographic cab off the rank is Generation Z, a term which refers to those born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s.

Unlike Millennials, sometimes labelled the “me generation” who started out in an era of economic prosperity and rapid technological development, Gen Zers are true digital natives who value individual expression and avoid labels, McKinsey experts say. Who doesn’t love a good generalisation?

Previous generations of employees were happy enough as long as their jobs didn’t negatively affect them, we’re told. Now, the younger workforce want their jobs to have an actively positive impact on their wider wellbeing, says Kelly Feehan, Services Director at CABA, the wellbeing charity for chartered accountants.

“This issue is only going to become more significant as Generation Z, who aren’t prepared to sacrifice their physical or mental health on the altar of work, make up more of the workforce. Employers must therefore place a clear focus on workplace wellbeing packages and more flexible working options,” Feehan adds.

This younger workforce also needs to be confident that their abilities aren’t being misjudged and they aren’t being labelled simply as “young”. Research conducted by CABA found that 43% of 16- to 24-year-olds worry about not being taken seriously because of their age. A lack of clarity around career progression is a big concern for many young accountants.

Employers can address this by cultivating an entrepreneurial mentality within the company, encouraging employees to feed in their ideas on things like technology pilots, sustainability initiatives and employee benefits packets. “By giving employees the opportunity to help shape the future of the business, employers can motivate and support their teams,” Feehan says.

Gen Zers are drawn to businesses with strong values and a sense of purpose. “Broad-brush” incentives like money, benefits or rewards are unlikely to cut it. “Strategies around care for the community and the environment are key for recruiting talent as well as demonstrating how the business gives back to the community,” Donna Bulmer, Managing Partner of Haines Watts in the North East and Yorkshire, says.

Meeting their individual motivations in a way that makes them feel understood and providing a culture of learning where individuals are responsible for their own learning, are essential to inspiring this generation of employees, says Kate Turner, Director at consultancy Motivational Leadership.

“When people love what they do, they do it so much better. Employee development needs to be part of the everyday, rather than something which happens formally and infrequently. This generation are tech-savvy and real multi-taskers, so providing them with bite-sized chunks of self-directed learning which can take them on their own path will keep their interest,” she says.

But it’s also about giving them opportunities to use this learning and be gently stretched out of their comfort zone so they can develop the skills and talents needed to deliver the firm’s strategy, according to Turner. Providing a network of mentors, coaches and buddies around them to support them in their learning will allow them to forge their own development plan – shaped by what they need to deliver, their objectives, and most importantly their motivators.

For information on ICAEW Academy’s course Leading Five Generations – which looks at the strategies managers can use to unite multi-generational teams – please visit here